THE NHL SHOOTS FOR THE STARS

by desertdawg

I admit to having mixed feelings about the All Star game. On the one hand it’s great to see so many elite players on the ice at one time. On the other hand, it’s a meaningless game. Let’s face it, you see more competition in your standard ceremonial face-off.

Of course, how many times do you get to see a five way passing play leading to a goal?

But the NHL has problems, and there is talk of reducing the number of teams in the league…so called contraction. The truth is, a number of teams in the southern states are already housed in the Intensive Care Unit.

The NHL has always been a poor cousin in the good old US of A, where they still call it ice hockey. And Bettman & Co. are still desperate to promote the game as a truly continent-wide professional sport. But the problem is, you have teams in Phoenix and Nashville that would arguably be better off in a northern market. Certainly Hamilton would fill the building on a regular basis, but there is a bias against adding a Canadian franchise. But if they Board of Governors is still bound and determined to build a US audience, both Seattle and Portland would be good choices. Finding ownership with deep pockets in those two US cities may be problematic, even though two of the richest men in the US (Bill Gates and Paul Allen) reside there. I just don’t think the NHL has pursued those cities with any real interest.

And of course, being a Canuck fan, I’m the biased one…like, let’s give the Canucks a travel break by getting some professional hockey teams in the Pacific Northwest. The NHL, in it’s wisdom, expanded to areas with large southern television markets, where they believed a number of Canadians spend six months or more a year there soaking up the sun. The problem is, most of those Canadians are older, and don’t go out to many professional sporting events. The target market for most pro sports is the 25 to 50 year olds. Those are the people that attend or watch Baseball, Football and Basketball in large numbers. They have the dough and they are willing to spend it. And in the south, hockey for that age group comes in behind NASCAR and professional bowling. Ticket deals are so cheap in the south that it boggles the mind. You can often get deals for two tickets, two hot dogs and two beers for 25 bucks. Does that even cover the parking in Toronto?

But the NHL is not looking to Canada, or even the Pacific NW. The rumour is, they are looking to Europe. Now, one commentator has said that the NHL won’t fly there because there are leagues like the KHL and the Swedish Elite League that would wipe out the NHL. The thing is, I don’t think they NHL would go head to head in Europe…they’d look to include those leagues in any expansion.

It’s all a pipe dream, of course, because the economic depression is going to see some bloodshed in both the US and Canada within the next couple of years. Expansion will be put on hold and temporary contraction could well become a reality. I am once again reminded of the Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times.

As for the all star game, well there were some pretty goals. But my main interest was to see that Roberto Luongo did not get injured.

Plus, the All Star game is the beginning of the stretch run. Rivalries heat up as divisional play becomes more frequent in the last few weeks. Every game means something. Teams that get hot can do damage in the playoffs. And everybody still believes the Butch Goring myth: contenders are only one trade away at the deadline…a trade that can launch a team into the Cup finals.

So here’s a question…what do you think the Canucks need?

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